Selecting a B2B eCommerce Platform for your B2B organization can be a rather difficult task. If this is your first time on this site, read the companion article “Why your b2b e-commerce rfp might be broken.” I also understand that RFPs are a common business practice, so I want to help you get through it as fast as possible. To help you, here are a few best practices for selecting a B2B ecommerce platform — as well as a free template for creating B2B eCommerce RFPs of your own.
6 Best Practices for Selecting Your B2B eCommerce Platform
- Start with writing a business case. Your business case should include a return on investment based on hard data like site traffic, conversion and average order value and soft data like reduced operational cost and cost per customer call. Use your Business Case to prioritize what you do first and to measure the effectiveness of your decisions. A business case and a B2B e-commerce strategy go hand in hand.
Creating a Business Case for B2B E-Commerce.
Free Excel Download
Business Case and ROI Calculator
- Understand the components of an e-commerce system: Educate yourself on every aspect of an e-commerce platform. Leave the B2B part out for now. Learn how to create customer experiences, merchandising, promotions and what out of the box (OOTB) means. You will find standard features that span across platforms – things like the product information, shopping cart, and orders. That’s a lot of work I know, so do not do this with 12 vendors.
Guide to B2B E-Commerce | B2B E-Commerce Best Practices
- Get IT and the Business on the same page: To select a platform that is right for your organization, you must balance what you need to deliver with how to construct it. Come together with joint use cases, requirements, and business case. This should include experience management, merchandising tools (product relationships), and architecture.
To the IT team: Figure out what your business counterparts need, why they need it, and the tools they require. The customer experience does matter, no matter how much of a geek you are.
To the Business team: Regardless of what is out of the box, IT has a lot of work to do to get ready for this type of project on your internal systems.
Help each other out – advocate for each other, and maybe even work to understand each other. I promise it will go a long way.
- Discover which requirements are unique to your business and industry: When developing requirements, the tendency is to focus on where you are unique. While you certainly need to understand these unique needs, it is difficult for any platform to provide all these requirements out of the box. The use case demonstration will become a race to who can build your requirements the fastest versus understanding what is out of the box and how your organization customizes the solution. Start your discovery process off by doing these 7 things.
- Use cases instead of RFPs– put your money and resources into building use cases. Develop use cases that address common features and a few to help you figure out how to customize for your unique requirements. On the latter, ask one thousand questions: How did you build that? How was that customized? Show me.
Make sure that your team has read and agreed with all of the use cases. Ideally, everyone in the room would have had a hand in developing the use cases and even debated the merits of each. I am not suggesting that you eliminate RFP completely.
Read how I believe the RFP process might be broken.
If you absolutely need a RFP, I understand. Maybe the starter RFP can help you.
- Integration, integration, integration: Integration is critical to your success. E-Commerce is an ecosystem made up of many back office and front office systems. You should consider integration with ERP, CRM, Pricing Engines, Order Management, Content Management (CMS), Product Information (PIM), and many others. Understand how each platform integrates to your back office. Have a deep dive technical architecture workshop with your vendors. Answer these questions:
Will you use an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), bulk files or all the above?
Do you have data quality issues?
Understand each of your integration options and the consequences of integration decisions. You understand your environment; vendors understand their software. Walk away from your architecture sessions having explored every option.
A new approach
So, what should you do?
Based on years of watching companies struggle, I have taken the best examples of agile and social approaches to selecting software platforms and create a brand new step by step approach. The AgileRFP. It is like having my voice in your head – I know scary.